What Makes The LEGO Movie The PERFECT Toy-Based Movie (VIDEO)

What Makes The LEGO Movie The PERFECT Toy-Based Movie
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In this FandomWire Video Essay, we explore what makes The LEGO Movie the perfect toy-based movie.

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The LEGO Movie Is Awesome

The LEGO Movie

Legos were first introduced in 1949. In the years that followed, the building blocks popularity grew at an astounding rate, branching out into specifically licensed sets. The toys eventually ventured into the realm of direct-to-video film series with movies like Bionicle: Mask of Light and Hero Factory: Rise of the Rookies. But it was with 2014’s The Lego Movie, directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, that made Legos… and toys in general, a major contender in the world of big-screen blockbusters.

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But how did they do it? How did the relatively unknown duo behind Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street manage to take a non-narrative concept as simple as colorful building blocks and turn them into a critical and box office success? Well, put on your shoes and watch your step as we explore how The Lego Movie changed toys in cinema forever.

For every Transformers, G.I. Joe, or even Battleship that we get, The Lego Movie continues to stand at the top of the stack. With Greta Gerwig’s Barbie making major waves at the box office and racking up rave reviews from critics and audiences alike, it’s clear that The Lego Movie wasn’t a one-time flook. There really is a method and a manner to bringing toy lines to the big screen in successful and impactful ways. But we may never have gotten Barbie if The Lego Movie hadn’t set the stage and raised the bar nearly ten years back.

To examine its success, we can start by looking at writing and directing duo Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who were best known for their cult-classic television series Clone High. Lord and Miller have a pretty impressive resume under their belt, but perhaps the most amusing thing about their resume is how it is filled almost entirely with films that people thought could never be good and surprised us by being great. 21 Jump Street always felt like an uphill battle with adapting a highly dated television series from the 80s, but between the sharp material from Lord and Miller and the infectious chemistry between Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, it became an instant comedy classic that bought Lord and Miller a ticket to do almost anything they wanted. They would go on to have a falling out with Lucasfilm during the production of Solo: A Star Wars Story and rise to making two of the best Spider-Man films of all-time in Into the Spider-Verse and Across the Spider-Verse, with Beyond the Spider-Verse on the way.

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From the get-go, one of the most surprising elements of The Lego Movie is how sharp the screenplay is. Sure, there’s plenty for children to enjoy, and it largely remains a family-friendly affair that works on a surface-level viewing, but there’s quite a bit of blatant commentary on display as well. One of the most compelling themes of the film is that of surveillance and how capitalism molds us into conformists, although it isn’t presented to be quite that dark. President Business, voiced by Will Ferrell, is the overlord of Bricksburg. Ferrell obviously kills with the comedic material, but what makes him such a compelling villain is what he represents to the story and themes – President Business promotes excessive consumerism and blind loyalty to the government of Bricksburg that he oversees. He wishes to strip all citizens of any sense of individuality and expression in order to maintain a tight-nit society that never breaks standard of how he expects things to be. In fact, later in the film, it’s shown that any and all free-thinkers are imprisoned for going against the grain of what President Business wants. On top of that, his master plan throughout the film is to use the device he calls the Kragle (or Krazy Glue) to permanently put everyone and everything exactly where he wants it to be. While this easily could’ve been too on the nose when it comes to commentating on conformity and surveillance, it is done with such humor and originality that it never becomes overbearingly obvious.

Emmett, voiced by Chris Pratt, is the perfect consumer in President Business’ eyes; he blindly listens to the most popular songs on the radio, pays for overpriced coffee, doesn’t question surveillance, and never misses a day’s work at his construction job. One of the wisest moves the film makes is how much it respects Emmett as a character, despite how complicit he is in President Business’ machine. Emmett has a large heart, and that is his greatest strength as a character. He might not be as unique as Wyldstyle, colorful as Unikitty (Uni-Kitty pronounced like Unicorn), or as useful as Batman – but he proves to have so much compassion for every person and situation he comes across that you can’t help but root for him. He is the everyman, stuck as a cog in a machine he never asked to be part of – something that I believe everyone can relate to. So many of us get routinely stuck in a position, whether it’s occupationally or circumstantially, that we forget our sense of self along the way. And that’s why the film, as well as Emmett as a character, proved to be so resonant. The very idea of Emmett’s personality persevering above the day-to-day mechanics of a society we can all relate to proved to be so incredibly heartwarming. Chris Pratt has gotten some flack from largely playing the same character across many of his performances, but his vocal performance as Emmett is so infectious that you can’t help but instantly love and root for him.

Another big reason The Lego Movie works as well as it does is due to the way it actually treats the IP it’s based off of. Whenever films based on IPs are made, we as an audience are predispositioned to believe they will be nothing but cash grabs merely there to use said IP instead of actually digging into what people know and love about it, or even possibly doing something fresh and new with it. But The Lego Movie wisely digs into the very idea of what Lego means to people and why it continues to be such a thriving toy line and brand that promotes creativity, individuality, and expression. Legos in and of themselves represent the very themes we’re talking about here, as you can certainly take a set of legos and build them exactly as the instructions tell you; that can be satisfying. On the other hand, if you’re given a random set of Legos, you can still build something incredible – you don’t have to follow the instructions in order to build something beautiful and worthwhile, all you need is your creativity and you can do almost anything you set your mind to. There are so many various places to take a film about Legos with a vast amount of scenarios and situations that the characters could find themselves in and creative obstacles to get themselves out of, and the film truly feels like it takes advantage of every opportunity it has with so many genuinely enthralling, colorful, and unique set-pieces.

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What really helps The Lego Movie hit it out of the park are the revelations that occur close to the third act. One of the biggest swings being the audience going fully into the real world, where you meet the young boy Finn, who’s behind everything that has been occurring in the film. President Business is revealed to just be how Finn is coping with his father, also played by Will Ferrell, and his strict rules. This adds an extra layer of depth to the film, where it feels a lot more impactful and weighted within its drama as it actually stems from a human relationship; it’s a moment that beautifully contextualizes everything you watched until this point and somehow makes it even better. The other great revelation is that of the prophecy of The Special from Vitruvius being a lie only meant to inspire hope for anyone that needs it. This is momentarily devastating for Emmett, who spends so much of the film excited by the notion that he’s actually more than he ever thought he could be – but the realization that he never had to be part of a prophecy to find meaning, happiness, and a sense of identity is even more powerful than discovering that you are some destined, chosen-one above everyone else. You are special, exactly how you are, and being yourself is more important than living up to expectations than never suited you in the first place.

Even deeper than all of this, The Lego Movie works on a narrative level; the film is absolutely astounding in every metric. Phil Lord and Chris Miller delivered an incredibly meta and tight-knit screenplay that has a perfect balance of humor, heart, and character. From an animation perspective, it is so gorgeously stylized and feels as if there’s so much attention to detail. While the film is not stop-motion within its animation, it goes the extra mile to try and have the characters move like actual Lego characters would, and that simply adds to the charm and excitement of watching a feature-length Lego Movie. The fact that the film was able to juggle so many different characters and IPs within an IP like DC, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and so many more speaks highly to the attention to detail and care that was put into every element of production. It’s so easy for films as meta as this to become bogged down by being too self-referential and quirky, but the film wisely never loses sight of its characters and story at the expense of a joke. Lord and Miller and the entire crew clearly have so much love for this material and what Lego means to people, and they did everything they could to make sure it was a worthwhile venture that would set the bar high for anything that came after it.

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It’s through all of this that  The Lego Movie is elevated to one of the most delightful and relentlessly entertaining films of recent memory, with true replay and re-watchablility value. What could’ve easily been a cheap cash grab instead took what we all collectively love about Lego and turned it into a genuinely emotionally moving, exciting, and hilarious satire on surveillance, capitalism, and society at large. On top of this, the film is a wonderful ode to that of creativity; to not let your imagination and sense of adventure fade away. Our creativity and imagination is one of our only real escapes from the realities of occupation and circumstances in our day-to-day life, and The Lego Movie tries to remind us of not only that but how our individuality is what makes us special. It’s truly a beautiful message that feels resonant for both children and adults alike and continues to resonate with people even after nearly ten years later.

What’s your favorite toy movie? Let us know in the comments. Be sure to subscribe and help us build our lego tower of subscriptions as high as it can go. Thanks for watching, master builders!  We’ll see you next time.

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Written by Reilly Johnson

Articles Published: 431

Reilly Johnson is a businessman, journalist, and a staple in the online entertainment community contributing to some of the largest entertainment pages in the world. Currently, Reilly is the President of FandomWire.